Jorhat, July 19: The Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association (ATTSA) today appealed to the state government to expedite the process of handing over the management of gardens under Assam Tea Corporation Limited (ATCL) to Andrew Yule, a central government public sector undertaking.
Reacting to reports in The Telegraph regarding possible takeover of the state government-owned ATCL gardens by Andrew Yule, ATTSA assistant general secretary Dhiraj Gowala said it was the only way to improve the condition of workers in ATCL gardens.
“We have been demanding since long to sell off the ATCL gardens to private parties as the state government has failed to run them smoothly, resulting in the workers suffering,” he said.
Andrew Yule has been showing a keen interest in taking over the management of a few gardens of the ATCL but the state government has clarified that if there was a takeover, it has to be at least 12 gardens located in the Brahmaputra Valley. A team from Andrew Yule is visiting the ATCL gardens.
The Amalgamated Plantations’ Private Limited, formerly Tata Tea, had also shown keen interest in buying ATCL gardens a few years back but the deal did not work out probably because of the huge liabilities involved, Gowala said.
He said a lack of commitment on the part of the government and mismanagement had pushed the fate of 15 gardens owned by the corporation to the brink of closure. “Despite some of the ATCL-owned gardens being the best in the state as far as producing quality tea is concerned, the corporation failed to make profit due to mismanagement and lack of commitment.”
Gowala alleged that ATCL workers had not got regular pay, ration and other facilities for over a decade and many had been forced to work as daily labourers.
He said the government should ensure that the interest of workers was not compromised in case of a takeover and that the Central hospital at Cinnamara tea estate, owned by the ATCL, was revived for the workers’ benefit.
The central hospital of the ATCL was one of the best in Upper Assam during the heydays of the corporation. It not only catered to the workers of ATCL gardens but also people from the nearby areas. The hospital was closed down a few years ago.
Gowala said an ATTSA delegation would meet chief minister Tarun Gogoi and industry minister Pradyut Bordoloi and submit a memorandum.